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Rueters: "White House faces new questions on Katrina relief"

Excerpts from Reuters News today:

"The Washington Post reported that five of the top eight FEMA officials had little experience in handling disasters and owed their jobs to their political ties to Bush.

As political operatives took the top jobs, professionals and experts in hurricanes and disasters left the agency, the newspaper said.

FEMA director Michael Brown, already under fire for his performance as the disaster unfolded, came under further pressure when Time magazine reported that his official biography released by the White House at the time of his nomination exaggerated his experience in disaster relief.

Brown was a friend of former Bush campaign director Joe Allbaugh, the previous FEMA head. Brown had also headed an Arabian horse association. Last week, as criticism of his response to the disaster swelled, Bush gave him a public vote of confidence, saying, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Brown's biography on the FEMA Web site said he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," but Time quoted an official in Edmond, Oklahoma, as saying the job was actually "assistant to the city manager," with little responsibility. The magazine also said Brown padded his academic accomplishments.

"The assistant is more like an intern," city spokeswoman Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him."

In response to the report on Time's Web site, FEMA issued a statement that took issue with elements related to an unofficial biography, and described his job in Edmond as "assistant to the city manager."

Bush administration officials were busy rushing fresh aid to the region while also trying to blunt the political fallout over the federal response to what, at an estimated $100 billion to $200 billion, could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state and a possible leader for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, criticized the disaster response by all levels of government in an interview to be broadcast on Friday.

'ENOUGH WARNING'

"There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done. I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why," Powell said in excerpts of the "20/20" program interview posted to the ABC Web site."
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